he Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has released a directive for casinos to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. It follows Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s announcement last week that casinos could reopen on May 18.
Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs and Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff will be allowed to operate at one-third of their guest capacity, and each venue had to submit a detailed plan for reoperating under COVID-19 health restrictions.
The governor said the casinos will also operate under "stringent social distancing requirements," KATV reports. Part of ADH’s directive includes enforcing a requirement for face coverings for all persons present and maintaining a 6-foot distance. Regarding restaurants inside of the casino, operators are being told to follow the state’s restaurant directive.
Employees and customers will be screened before entering the facility and casino operators are expected to manage lines or queues for entrance, exit, making purchases, or for other reasons for maintaining a social distance of 6 feet between people.
All three casinos have submitted plans and protocols to the ADH as they work to implement state directives as well as changes being made by casino operators.
Quapaw Nation's Chairman and Chairman of the Saracen Development Authority, John Berrey, told ABC Channel 7 that they're excited to reopen but also worry about the health of staff and patrons. “We are removing chairs to promote social distancing, we’re going to allow 33 percent of the capacity, we are going to give masks – we are going to make sure all of the customers have masks," Berrey said. "We’re going to get a copy of their ID to help track people with the state health department. We’re going to have reduced hours. We are probably not going to open up our convenient store where we serve food.”
Also, he said that while they had planned on finishing construction on the casino resort next month, due to the pandemic, weather, and lack of supplies they have pushed their completion date to late July or beginning of August.